Are You a Mosquito Magnet? 6 Tips to Help Control Mosquitoes
Now that we’re heading into the summer months, you’ll probably spend more time outdoors and a lot more time around mosquitoes. If you’re one of those people mosquitoes love to target, we have some good news.
Mosquitoes are a hassle. They bite and spread viruses such as Zika, West Nile, dengue, malaria and Chikungunya. But they contribute to our ecosystem by serving as a food source for various types of fish, plus bats, dragonflies and purple martins. They also pollinate flowers (like bees and butterflies). You may be surprised to learn that mosquitoes’ primary food source is flower nectar, not blood. In fact, only female mosquitoes bite people and only when they need blood protein to produce eggs.
Still, you may feel like a mosquito magnet, getting bit more often than other people. And you may be correct. Mosquitoes tend to be drawn to pregnant women and people with blood types of AB and O.
You may also inadvertently be contributing to your “mosquito appeal,” as there are controllable personal and environmental factors that attract mosquitoes. You can help lower your risk for mosquito bites by following these six recommendations.
- Wear lighter colors. Yes, black clothes are slimming, but they make it easy for mosquitoes to find you. A handful of studies have found that mosquitoes gravitated toward black. Other dark colors, like navy, along with bright colors are also problematic. Experts recommend wearing lighter colors like pastels, beiges, light grays and whites while outdoors during mosquito season. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) also recommends wearing loose-fitting, long-sleeved shirts and pants.
- Eat blander foods. You may love sweet, salty and spicy foods, but so do mosquitoes. Some researchers also warn against eating too many potassium-rich foods like bananas. If you plan on spending a lot of time outdoors during the summer, choose your foods wisely.
- Swap beer for water. This one can be tough, especially if you’re at a cookout, ball game or bar. Though studies show that you attract more mosquitoes after drinking beer than water. The problem is the yeast -- mosquitoes like it. And it’s not limited to just beer. It’s also an issue baked goods and anything with baking soda (including cleaning supplies). For years it was believed that drinking gin and tonics helped ward of mosquitoes; unfortunately, studies don’t support this myth.
- Wash with antibacterial soap. Mosquitoes like bacteria. And they can smell the bacteria that lives on your skin. This is why you’ll find more bites on your ankles and feet -- they carry a lot of bacteria. Using antibacterial soap helps lower the number of bacterium strains you have on your body, making you less desirable to mosquitoes.
- Exercise indoors. Exercise, along with other forms of physical activity, raises your body temperature, making you a target for mosquitoes. It also causes you to sweat, particularly in warm weather. Some compounds in sweat (e.g., ammonia and lactic acid) -- especially when combined with the bacteria on skin -- signal mosquitoes. Another mosquito flag is carbon dioxide. Like sweat, CO2 increases during exercise and physical activity, alerting mosquitoes that a host is close. Obviously, this makes outdoor sports, activities such as cycling, walking or running and chores like mowing your lawn and gardening difficult. If these types of activities are a part of your summer routine, wear lightly colored, longer, loose-fitting clothes, treat clothes with permethrin, wear insect repellent and drink plenty of water.
- Control mosquitoes in your yard. Clear away debris and standing water from your yard. Dethatch your lawn and add insect-repellant plants to your landscape.
For more information on mosquito control, visit the CDC »